Valley View Manor closes its doors

39 patients lose beds and 56 employees lose jobs because of corporate decision

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More than 50 employees at Valley View Manor in Craig will be out of work in 60 days.

Dale Zaletel, president of the Rocky Mountain Region for Mariner Health Care, the company that owns Valley View Manor, broke the news to more than 30 employees in a meeting this morning in the building's cafeteria.

"Today is a difficult day for me," he told the group, who had been called to a 10 a.m. meeting. "A decision has been made to close this operation. We will be doing that over the next 60 days."

Some employees, who were on duty, were wearing work uniforms. Some were not working today, and had made a special trip to the home for the meeting.

One woman was holding her baby girl when the news was delivered; another employee had come in with her two dogs and had just let them outside prior to the start of the meeting.

When the news was delivered, a few of the employees were on the verge of tears. Some shook their heads in disbelief, and most just stared blankly as they were told their place of employment would be closed in 60 days.

"It's a very, very said time for all of us," Zaletel said.

He told the group that Mariner had done everything it could to keep the doors to the home, which houses 39 residents, open.

But he said the facility was operating more than $1 million in the red in the last six months.

"This building is significantly upside down financially," he said.

"We're at a point right now where we simply cannot make it work anymore," he said. "We notified the state yesterday that we're on a 60-day track to close the building and transfer the residents."

Mariner, which owns more than 300 nursing homes nationwide, 31 in Colorado, is just coming out of filing for bankruptcy.

The company was trying to just break even with Valley View Manor in Craig, but was unable to do so, Zaletel said.

The problem lies in a lack of Medicare and Medicaid reimbursements, he said.

"Nobody is willing to reimburse nursing homes today like they should to keep people like yourself," he told the employees.

"What you have is a small nursing home in a small community," he said. "Like so many in this country it's struggling financially. We can't convince the federal and state government that we're not getting paid enough to run these homes."

There's also been a substantial increase in the number of assisted living homes in Colorado, which is impacting the nursing home business, he said.

"Many of them are taking people I don't feel they can take care of," he said.

Zaletel predicted that more nursing homes in Colorado would be shutting their doors in the near future.

"I think over the next two years there will be a substantial amount of nursing homes having to make the same decision," he said.

Valley View Manor currently houses 39 residents, but has the capacity to house 60.

The residents and their families will be contacted today and tomorrow, he said.

Zaletel also said Mariner is committed to helping transfer people to other healthcare facilities.

One employee asked if there were enough beds in the area to house the 39 residents that must be transferred.

"There are other beds," he said. "But the reality of it is, they're quite a ways away."

He said people might have to move a considerable distance, with the closest homes being in surrounding communities like Meeker and Grand Junction.

Mariner also owns a facility in Grand Junction.

Zaletel encouraged the employees to help make this a smooth transition.

"If you need to get in the ambulance or van to help transport someone, we're with you," he told the employees. "These are family and friends you've known for a long time and we don't want to lose that."

He also told the employees that Mariner would help the employees find work at other nursing homes.

He also said the company would entertain any proposals by local people who want to purchase the home.

"If you know of anyone in this community who would like to run Valley View, let us know," he said. "Mariner will talk with anyone interested in keeping this building open."

Valley View Manor came within a day of having to close its doors in December when the state threatened to shut them down after an unannounced inspection turned up 16 deficiencies.

The health department accepted Valley View's correction plan Dec. 13 for each deficiency.

The home was able to dodge the bullet from the state in December, but in the end, it came down to finances.

"I know as an employee today this is the last thing you want to hear," he said. "The CEO and I have spent many, many phone calls discussing the future of Valley View."

But pending purchase of the building by someone in Northwest Colorado within the next 60 days, there will no longer be a future to discuss for Valley View Manor.

Josh Nichols can be reached at 824-7031 or jnichols@craigdailypress.com.

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